Have you noticed how we all fall into habits?
I used to work with a group of women who had been referred because of their problems with drugs. Listening to their stories and struggles, it occurred to me that their challenges are no different than my challenges in trying to lose ten pounds, or another client’s challenge saying “NO” to unreasonable demands on her time and resources.
We do so many things without giving them much thought, going through our days on “autopilot” – from brushing our teeth in the morning to the kind of food we eat or the people we spend time with.
I remember once reading that when we go to the grocery store, each of has a limited number of items (I recall seventeen being mentioned) that we buy over and over. We run out and replenish the same consumed items!
Given the time crunch that’s a feature of our daily lives, it’s no wonder we rely on autopilot to get us through the day! Imagine what it would be like if you had to actually think about every step you take, every word you say, and every choice you make!
Even when these habits don’t work for us anymore, even when they are unhealthy or risky, think of some of the things you do without second thought.
Can you list a few? Most of us are surprised when we can.
We go through our days on “autopilot”.
Now, think of a time when maybe you tried to change one of these habits. Did you have any success?
If you did, you probably did what we are about to learn to do – to act DELIBERATELY.
Most of the time, when we want to change something in ourselves – a behavior or a thought or a feeling – we have no idea how to change it. Mostly we hope we’ll wake up doing it differently.
Does this “magical” thinking ever work?
For example, if you decided you wanted to wake up earlier in the morning than you usually do. Would you just wish it and go to sleep? How likely are you to wake up earlier just by wishing it?
If you were to act DELIBERATELY, you would set the alarm for an earlier time. If walking up earlier was really important to you, you’d also make sure you got to bed early, asked a friend to call, set another alarm…anything to make sure that you woke up at the right time.
So, when you act DELIBERATELY, you are saying that the change is really important to you. You are willing to plan ahead so that you make sure you get the result you want.
Something you should know about acting DELIBERATELY – when you practice a behavior over and over again, it becomes automatic… just like the habit you are trying to change now! Come to think of it, you probably did it DELIBERATELY a long time ago, and then it became automatic!
When you practice something new DELIBERATELY, it will give you a healthy new habit and also get rid of the old one.
What changes do you want to make that are really important to you?
Can you list list three things you are going to do DELIBERATELY now?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take small steps and don’t try to change everything at once. One you discover how wonderful you feel, you’ll think of other things to do DELIBERATELY.
Dr. Sunaina Rao Jain
Child & Adolescent Clinical Psychologist
Pathways Transition Programs